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Major trading house Marubeni Corp. lowered its earnings projection for fiscal 1998 on Thursday and announced a restructuring program to consolidate its 701 group firms into about 500 by March 31, 2001.

Marubeni said that when its books are tabulated it expects to suffer net losses of 20 billion yen for the year that ended Wednesday, although it projected profits of 10 billion yen in November. It also lowered its sales projection for the fiscal year from 12 trillion yen to 11 trillion yen.

Marubeni, hit hard by the Asian financial crisis and appraisal losses on real estate holdings, will post after-tax losses of 79 billion yen. Currently, about 40 percent of firms in the Marubeni group are in the red. The restructuring program unveiled Thursday aims to reduce this figure to less than 20 percent by withdrawing from unprofitable businesses, Marubeni officials said.

The firm said that it is aiming to reduce consolidated assets from 6.7 trillion yen to 5.3 trillion yen, and interest-bearing liabilities from 4 trillion yen to 3 trillion yen by the end of March 2001.

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